Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama System, announced last week that the system is likely to lose at least 1,000 jobs over the next 18 months during the Bush recession.
As a former employee at one of Portera's campuses, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), this news raised some interesting questions in my mind. In fact, I would suggest that all Alabamians need to ask some pointed questions of the man who leads the three-campus system.
Here are a few questions your dogged Legal Schnauzer has for Portera:
* You say these are lean times for the UA System. So how much money is the system wasting on discrimination lawsuits that could have been avoided? At UAB alone, numerous legal actions recently have been brought by veteran employees--people who have invested 20 to 35 years in the university and clearly do not have histories of being troublesome employees. What has happened under the "leadership" of President Carol Garrison to make UAB unable to manage long-time employees?
* When's the last time you checked into the Office of Counsel at UAB? If my memory is correct, the office answers directly to you, so I assume you are familiar with how it operates. Recent activities indicate you have been "out to lunch" on legal matters, so let me clue you in on how an Office of Counsel should work. Numerous law firms in Alabama focus on defense of employment-related lawsuits. If you check the Web sites for most any of these firms--here's one from Baker Donelson, as an example--you notice that one of their primary services is "litigation avoidance." They offer training and assistance with the development of policies and procedures that are designed to ensure their clients abide by federal laws and, in the process, avoid litigation.
* So why doesn't UAB's Office of Counsel practice litigation avoidance? I possess a document that indicates two members of that office--apparently John Daniel and Lisa Huggins--reviewed my termination letter before it was presented to me by Dale Turnbough, associate vice president for public relations and marketing. Anyone with a few functioning brainwaves in their cranium should have been able to detect about 197 red flags in this letter. But Daniel and Huggins apparently approved it without batting an eye. Do your "legal experts" ever bother to ask questions of supervisors who are making stupid HR decisions? If not, why are they employed at UAB? What purpose do they serve?
* Times are so lean, you say, that regular folks are going to be losing their jobs in the UA System. But documents in Birmingham federal court indicate that UAB cheated federal taxpayers out of $300 to $600 million through canny use of research fraud. That should have created a nice rainy-day fund to tide the Birmingham campus over during rough times. So where is it? Where is UAB's dirty money?
* You note that we are experiencing the worst recession in 75 years. But you fail to mention an important fact: This recession, like the Great Depression, was brought on by the actions of a Republican administration. And yet you are a prominent member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), which is run by one of Alabama's most prominent Republicans, Bill Canary. In fact, Mr. Canary has well-documented ties to Karl Rove, who has been celebrated as "Bush's Brain" and played a major role in leading our country to the brink of economic collapse. Since you support the very people who led us into this mess, why should Alabamians have any confidence in your ability to lead our flagship university system during times of economic stress--or during any other times, for that matter?
* Jill Simpson, an Alabama attorney and former Republican operative, has testified to Congress, under oath, that Bill Canary helped arrange a bogus prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. If this is proven to be true, Mr. Canary has committed myriad federal crimes. If Mr. Canary committed these crimes while acting in his role as BCA president, and apparently he did, doesn't that make the BCA a glorified criminal syndicate? Have you considered distancing yourself from such an organization? As the head of Alabama's flagship university system, shouldn't you at least be asking a few hard questions about actions that are taking place in the name of the BCA?
* While we have your attention, let's include one final question: What do you know about my unlawful termination at UAB? Sources tell me that you are one of President Carol Garrison's primary supporters. And news reports indicate you are concerned about people losing jobs in the UA System? So are you concerned about the fact that Carol Garrison signed off on a plan to cheat me out of my job? Have you asked her about it? UAB's own grievance committee found that I should not have been terminated, and evidence at my grievance hearing showed I should not have been disciplined at all, much less terminated. And yet, your gal pal, Carol Garrison, upheld a termination that her own committee found was wrongful. You don't need a Ph.D. to realize that doesn't make much sense. And substantial evidence indicates someone external to UAB pushed the university to fire me, for political reasons having to do with a blog I write on my own time. Do you know who these people are? Are you aware that, if a conspiracy to cheat me out of my job is proven--and it involved use of the U.S. mails or wires--that constitutes a federal crime? Does that concern you in the least?
More importantly, would you be willing to sit down for an interview with me, the Legal Schnauzer, to examine these issues?
We will give you that opportunity.